2019: First Quarter Favorites 23 incredible releases from the last three months

For each year's first three quarters, we celebrate by sharing a list of our favorite music releases. Unlike our year-end lists, these quarter features are casually compiled, with an aim to spotlight the underdogs and the lesser-heard among the more popular picks. More from this series


Solange

When I Get Home

[Columbia]

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[WATCH · READ]

Three years ago, when Solange Knowles released her magnum opus A Seat at the Table, how many of us would have guessed that it was merely a launch pad for a rocket bound for stranger destinations? On her latest release, When I Get Home, the artist has broken away from what structure means for a major label release, from the expectations of listeners still pigeonholing her to popular music royalty, from the mainstream consumer’s desires and biases. It runs less like the magnificence piece of art that we got with ASTT and more like a psychdelic, yet well-thought-out collection of tracks held together by meaningful interludes (we would be doing ourselves a disservice if we skipped them). Across these 19 tracks, Solange challenges the myth of the white American cowboy, leans into black spirituality, condemns police brutality, revels in the strength of transparency, and explores the meaning of home, and it results in an unobscured, 3-D study of self. She has, by all means, ascended.


Joragon

Bad Bitch Chainsaw Car: Melted and Casted her chainsaw into an Iron Maiden

[Self-Released]

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[LISTEN · READ]

The claustrophobic expanse of Joragon’s overdrive mash maximizes time and illuminates text skewfully through interpolations of what into what into now what, bearing the mark of a supreme multicommunicator battling cosmic forces while balanced on a juggler’s ball in boundless atmosphere. As a cinematographer, he lifts the lid and lets all the light flood in. Blinded by the glitter of mechanical treble, we dance to the snap of steel bullets sparking at our heels. The impact of anxiety and action overstimulates the immune system in this sequel of airy disaster, what Joragon calls an “inside joke to myself stretched to existential horror.”


Sebastian Maria

LUNITAS 2018

[Self-Released]

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[LISTEN]

Do you ever just want to cry there’s so much noise? Highly recommended (it’s okay to cry), though Sebastian Maria suggests alternate routes: turn traffic into hocketing verse, swing your tether around the club, destroy Zalem. This DJ is no healer! LUNITAS 2018 is devotional and irreverent, for stuckness, against worldbuilding, recycled from the world’s blocks. A world reused, refused? Worlds above worlds could only remind you: It’s hard work turning loud city sounds into songs with every unfinishable concrete moon. Organized for pleasure or overwhelm, a world building! This skyscraper of field recordings MADE IN USA with 13 stories (dancefloors), waxed and waning for no longer than one song, each a crisis and an epiphany, before you struck out on your own to come face to face with Our Lady of the Snows Square, the Queens full moon circling like a clockface, shedding no tears for so much noise!


Xiu Xiu

Girl With a Basket of Fruit

[Polyvinyl]

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[LISTEN · WATCH · READ]

Let’s broaden our minds: we are gross. We shed teeth with blood. We scratch skin and fleck self off to be sniffed up by other tongues. We pop and pus; we blame the smell on something else. We’re an arrhythmia of bad taste, itching noise and spiritual flatulence. Us is just a figure of meat. Imagine thinking niceness could feel right. Xiu Xiu sing our sores in the tenor they resemble, a horror show of throbbing heat like graffiti over the world. Like a joker in the art museum filleting fake masterpieces, Girl With a Basket of Fruit holds life accountable in our grossest empathy possible. It’s an extraordinary battering, some nodes colliding their fleshes into something better than the prescribed world. It comes out as a joke and knows that losing that noise is the wrong thing. It turns “Fuck your guns/ Fuck your war” to normal love. “I kind of like this one, Bob. Leave it.”


Patrick Shiroishi & Noel Meek

Break Your Eyes

[Self-Released]

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[LISTEN]

Although it is more interesting phase than AOTY, Break Your Eyes isn’t one to sleep on. Meek (electonics) and Shiroishi (sax) flutter and lurch together marvelously. Even when it hits a pregnant pause eight minud1dtes in to then embark on a litany of frayed, static-sodden false starts, the duo compellingly, intrinsically converses. Though the instrumentation differs, this somewhat resembles Meek’s record with an all-oscilating Bruce Russell. Their Classical Music was tense, low-boil noise for those who don’t bore easy. Break Your Eyes is similarly roomfunk meditative and murky. Even when the players properly attack their instruments, their compressed fidelity evokes a close-mic’d recording of agitated house flies zipping and bumping around a tight enclosure. And when Meek starts sawing at his violin for the concluding “Chewing Glass” section against Shiroishi’s moan-to-gasp soloing, that stressed gate finally pips out to our silence like a skittish Henry Flynt.


Sharon Van Etten

Remind Me Tomorrow

[Jagjaguwar]

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[LISTEN · WATCH · READ]

If Sharon Van Etten’s first four albums were compiled onto a (tiny) mix tape, it would be called “I just want to curl up under the covers and weep.” Remind Me Tomorrow, however — a left turn into the embrace of dark electronics — is much better suited for a “Walking down the street at night with a single tear running down my cheek” kind of mood. While not as heartbreakingly beautiful as her previous works, Remind Me Tomorrow is no less cathartic. It’s an album that confronts how who we were informs who we are, and what we’re gonna be. The past, present and future, all tangled up for unraveling. With all traces of guitar abandoned somewhere in the East River — replaced by every synth under the setting sun — Van Etten returned from a five-year absence sounding as dynamic, confident, and uplifting as ever. Plus, have you seen her on the late-night TV circuit? She’s positively slaying.

For each year's first three quarters, we celebrate by sharing a list of our favorite music releases. Unlike our year-end lists, these quarter features are casually compiled, with an aim to spotlight the underdogs and the lesser-heard among the more popular picks. More from this series


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